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Student journalists put Bill Clinton on the defensive over DOMA

by Nick Langewis

In a recent interview with the mtvU Editorial Board, former President Bill Clinton frames the Defense of Marriage Act, which he enacted in 1996, as a state's rights measure rather than an anti-gay initiative, aiming to give states the option not to recognize another state's legal same-sex marriage. In the political climate of 1996, Clinton says, it seemed like a reasonable alternative to an outright ban through constitutional amendment.

The Defense of Marriage Act bars the Federal Government from recognizing a same-sex or polygamous marriage for any purpose, including filing joint taxes, claiming federal benefits or, in a recent case out of Massachusetts, obtaining a passport under one's legal married name.

As Bay Windows reported earlier this month, AIDS educator and legally married Massachusetts resident Jason Hair-Wynn was refused a new passport using his legal name. According to a letter he received from the State Department, the Defense of Marriage Act prevented it from recognizing Hair-Wynn's marriage certificate as proof of his new name.

The letter did, however, address Mr. Hair-Wynn as such.

"The federal government will accept a marriage certificate as evidence of a legal name change for a different-sex married couple; they just wonít accept the same exact document as evidence of a legal name change from a same-sex married couple," said Michele Granda, attorney for GLAD. "Itís the same evidence of name change, itís the same legal status, theyíre just insisting when it comes to same-sex couples that the federal government can override Massachusetts name change law and ignore the rights of Massachusetts citizens."

"It's a slight rewriting of history," Clinton says, "for Melissa [Etheridge], whom I very much respect, to imply that somehow this was anti-gay, when I had more openly gay people in my administration, and did more for gay rights--and tried to provide an opportunity for gays to serve in the military; and did provide an opportunity for gays to serve in civilian positions involving national security that they had previously been denied from serving in."

Openly gay musician Etheridge, as a panelist during Logo's Visible Vote presidential forum with 2008 presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton last summer, expressed a feeling that the gay community was "thrown under the bus" by the Clinton administration.

"Even if it's a rewriting of history," presses mtvU's Lily Lamboy, "what's your position in 2008, given that people see this as an equal opportunity problem at the federal level, not just at the state level?"

The Senator's take is the real issue, the President responds, and he states that her position favors repeal of DOMA. He then fires back:

"Do you believe there will be more or fewer efforts to ban gay marriage constitutionally around the country if a Massachusetts marriage has to be sanctified in Utah?"

"It's a political backlash argument," probes Lamboy.

"Will there be more or fewer gay couples free of harassment," pushes Clinton, "if the law is that every gay couple in America could go to Massachusetts and marry--it would then have to be recognized in Utah?"

"When is that going to change, though," Lamboy asks, "if you're not willing to set a firm stance--"

"So, you don't care what the practical implications are," Clinton interrupts.

"We're asking you," responds Board member Joshua Sharp.

The entire interview, courtesy of mtvU, is embedded below.









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Originally published on Tuesday March 25, 2008.


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